Hong Kong's status as global hub at risk as Reds increase local role
DEMONSTRATIONS in Hong Kong against an extradition bill have morphed and spread into increasingly violent protests about the encroaching authoritarianism of Beijing, notes the Wall Street Journal
12 August 2019 - 19:00
'We have received the directive and are studying it very carefully. We are treating it seriously and are following up accordingly,' said a Cathay Pacific statement,
Cathay Pacific has been diversifying its routes and moving away from Chinese group bookings in recent years to reduce its reliance on China; even so, China-Hong Kong routes account for a fifth of its seat capacity, according to the CAPA - Centre for Aviation, making it vulnerable to a boycott from mainland customers.
State-run Air China owns 30 per cent of Cathay, which is controlled by the UK's Swire Group.
While an unofficial boycott might cause some short-term pain for the airline, the intervention of the civil aviation authority could pose Cathay a much bigger headache.
'Any passenger downturn would probably be short-term. Potentially more impactful is any regulatory action or informal practice that curtails, delays or make Cathay's operations harder,' said Will Horton, the Asia editor at Orient Aviation.
Mainland online criticism began to gather momentum when the airline's union signalled its backing for a planned protest involving hundreds of airline staff.
Complaints from the airline's mainland Chinese customers intensified after thousands of Cathay staff took part in a general strike, which led to flight cancellations, and after the details of a Hong Kong police soccer team who were on a trip to the mainland were leaked.
'Many people also took to social media to attack the carrier for allowing a pilot who was charged with rioting last month for his role in the protests to continue flying while awaiting trial.
Thousands of Cathay's mainland Chinese customers have pledged online to stop using the Hong Kong carrier. 'I strongly recommend that the Civil Aviation Administration of China put Cathay on the blacklist of airlines not allowed to fly to the mainland for taking part in the strikes, and to let this airline go out of business,' wrote one Weibo user.
'All people and businesses that have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people should be punished!' wrote another.
'Many were also dismissive of a statement Chinese media reported that Cathay Pacific had sent in which they said the airline countered the perception that it is backing the protests.
'The personal behaviour of some employees does not represent the company's position,' it said. 'Cathay Pacific has consistently supported 'one country, two systems' and recognised Hong Kong as part of China.'
On its official social media account, the People's Daily questioned the sincerity of the airline's apology. 'Who are you trying to fool?' it said.
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